Previous CalWORKs Research

RAND previously conducted a statewide evaluation of the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) Program, also under contract from the California Department of Social Services (CDSS). This study, which focused on changes to the program that resulted from the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunities Reconciliation Act (PRWORA) of 1996, was led by Jacob Klerman, Elaine Reardon, and Gail Zellman.

The Changing Nature of Welfare

PRWORA fundamentally changed the American welfare system. This federal legislation replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children program (AFDC) with the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. As its name implies, TANF stresses that welfare should be a transitional experience — not a source of long-term support.

PRWORA grants states wide latitude in designing their TANF programs. In California, the Thompson-Maddy-Ducheny-Ashburn Welfare-to-Work Act of 1997 replaced AFDC with the California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids program, or CalWORKs. CalWORKs is a "work first" program that provides support services to move recipients from welfare to work and self-sufficiency. It also gives the counties increased flexibility in designing their welfare programs.

Evaluating CalWORKs

The legislation required an independent, comprehensive statewide evaluation of the CalWORKs program. The evaluation has two parts. The first part tracked the process of CalWORKs implementation, and the second explored the impact of CalWORKs on current welfare recipients and their transition to self-sufficiency, and on possible future recipients.

Certain research activities examined statewide trends, and others concentrated on six counties: Alameda, Butte, Fresno, Los Angeles, Sacramento, and San Diego counties.